Knee surgery – Part 1

As mentioned a few weeks ago my knee has not been in the best of conditions and that some surgical operations would be required in order to make it more stable. I thought I would provide a few updates so that those of you that are may experience the same issues know what to expect. I’m also writing this out as for those interested in the medical fields.

Last November I side stepped aggressively and reached back to grab a disc. I was in significant pain and unable to put any pressure on the left leg for several days. Following a month of physiotherapy sessions as well as regular visits to the doctor I was unable to fully straighten my leg. My leg was not stuck bent but rather only 1 or 2 degrees away from being fully straight despite how hard I tried to naturally straighten it with my muscles. Following a MRI it was determined that my medial meniscus had folded upon itself due in part to a lack of ACL holding the knee closed during lateral movement.

Now into January I had a referral scheduled with a surgeon, Dr. Bailey, whom I met on February 9th. A knee arthroscopy was scheduled for late March in order to remove as little as possible of the folded meniscus to fix the issue. A few days following the meeting I received a phone call that a moved up surgical date was available for February 24th which I accepted.

On the 23rd I had a big lunch at Nando’s with plenty of protein as well as a dinner of fish and chips. At midnight I was to refrain from all food and drink. On the morning of the 24th I went into work prior to the 1100 designated arrival time at the hospital. When I checked in I put on a mask as I had a small cough. At 1130 I was admitted to the surgical pre-check area. At 1145 I went into a small room with a bed to change into gowns and start the pre-work.

By 1315 I was informed that they were running ahead of schedule so I was prepped with an IV, my temperature was taken (due to the cough/cold), and I was given antibiotics (regular for the course). All through this process the staff, nurses, and volunteers were friendly, supportive, and assertive. I am also rather friendly talkative so I suspect that helped with ensuring good communication between the various parties. I had also been asked my name and date of birth approximately a dozen times by now; all part of the process to ensure they had the correct patient at each stage.

By 1330 I walked into the OR. It was a large brightly lit room with machines beeping but unfortunately not the machine that goes ping. Dr. Bailey was on the computer but came over immediately to shake my hand and start going over the process with me and understood what we were doing. Once I was on the operating table we once again went over the process and I also had a short conversation with the anesthesiologist before wishing everybody good luck. That is my last memory before waking up in recovery.

Recovery started out well with me, as best as I can remember, apologizing for anything I may have said or done. I was informed that I was a perfect gentleman, of this I am unable to verify accuracy. Regardless, I was discharged from recovery into my original bed area for further recovery and was asked to sleep. I drank ginger-ale, some yogurt, and had a cup of water. My first steps were stable but I was dizzy and I was having hot flashes so I was asked to rest again. Finally, around 1730 we tried again and I was able to walk down a hall and back. The IV was removed and I was discharged from the hospital.

I was extremely sleepy and managed to make it home without falling fully asleep (note, I was driven home). The moment we pulled into the driveway I ejected the contents of the meal during recovery into a bag that the hospital had provided and felt much better. From there it was into the house where I watched plenty of television while returning to work.

Now, the following morning, I continue to recover. There is some new dizziness but nothing serious. The general anesthesia continues to wear off while the local anesthesia on my knee has supposed to have worn off during the night. I am not yet feeling any pain in and around my knee which makes me wonder whether that has yet to wear off or my tolerance of pain around my knee is rather high.

My first post-op, and I believe the only scheduled one at this time, is in two weeks. I have physiotherapy starting soon and am doing my own exercises at home prior to then. I expect to return to the gym after the first post-op and be fully recovered in six weeks. I have now gone close to 3 months without playing Ultimate and am itching to get back into it.

Here are a few other items of interest:

  • Much of my leg is pink. It is a sink cleanser and depending on the supplier it can also be blue.
  • There is also a gurgling in my knee when I bend it. This is due to a saline solution inserted to inflate the knee. Most of this drained at the end of the surgery but some remains and is reabsorbed by the body over time.
  • No showering for several days and no submersion in water of the knee/sutures for 2 weeks.
  • I was able to walk immediately and have been able to do so without pain. I am not putting pressure on the knee beyond weight bearing and being careful on the stairs.
  • I was able to eat normally from yesterday evening on. Some are not able to do this but for me I have been able to maintain a high protein diet and high fibre diet for the past few days which helps with recovery following surgery as well as with the digestive tract.

For those interested in the costs here’s what I can recall to date. I do not have health insurance as my startup (Minute School) is not yet in a position to do so. To date I have paid for physiotherapy and shall continue to do so out of pocket; each session is ~$70. There have been some pain medications as well that have amounted to less than $20 as well as crutches that have also cost less than $20. I have not had to pay for any doctors visits, the surgery, or the MRI.

In the future I may have ACL reconstruction surgery. I have deferred this based upon advice from the doctors as well as a lack of time to recover over the coming year. I also have a brace that I am comfortable playing with and that should provide sufficient support for the next few years. Will it be necessary as I age? Apparently, not. In 20 or 30 years my knees shall be much stiffer and I shall not be hindered by the lack of an ACL. So, I’m in a wait in see mode but I suspect that in 3 or 4 years I’ll re-evaluate the situation. This is not only for Ultimate but for the great many other activities that I participate in (speed skating, trail running, etc.) or plan to participate in (long distance hiking and climbing).

I hope this has been interesting for you, I’m pretty boring so we’ll now return to our regularly scheduled posts.

Survey: Injury Management in Club Ultimate

Head on over to the survey.

Rebecca Chang is a first year medical student at McMaster University and in her fourth year of playing Ultimate. As a part of her studies she’s doing advocacy project on injury management in Ultimate. Having toured with Lily, McMaster, and Lotus she’s well aware of the wear and strain that a season puts on our bodies. Many of us play with injuries caused either by overplaying, overtraining, or lack of preparation. What we need to understand is how to prevent injuries in the first place so that we can play our sport for a longer period.

Where we, the players, can help is by providing her with plenty of data for her survey of 10 questions. It’ll take a minute or two of your time and you’ll also have a chance to win something from VC as they’re sponsoring the survey.

Head on over to the survey.

Toronto Rush Thoughts

On the weekend I had the opportunity to attend the first home game of the Toronto Rush at Varsity Stadium.  With a large crowd of 2293 it was the largest crowd at a Professional Ultimate game and amongst the largest at an Ultimate game in recent memory.  I have had the opportunity to reflect upon the event as well as speak to many in the community from novice players to veterans.  Many of their thoughts are reflected below but they are ones that I share.  I shall attempt to approach the event from three perspectives:  an Ultimate player, a fan paying for entertainment, and an Ultimate player who’s a fan.  Of the three categories I am in the latter but I do see the game from all three perspectives.  There are both positives and negatives below and some are mundane but they’re worth mentioning because they play a big part in what’s happening next.

I arrived at the game about 20 minutes before 1900 (7pm) and found a few long lineups.  The lines were not as long as I expected and The Rush had sent out plenty of information ahead of timing indicating that the lineups would be there.  From all perspectives it was pleasant to see so many people and so many faces that I had not seen before.  However, in line, I recognized almost everybody and that points to quite a bit of support from the local community bringing their friends and family to the event.  I was fortunate that somebody pointed to a shorter lineup and that there were in fact 4 Will Call windows rather than just the two that most were lined up at.  While the first day seemed to be quite busy it would be helpful to have somebody directing the crowds and in general giving me information so I can get to the stands sooner rather than later.  The mood was generally excited and it was great to see the faces that I did recognize.  Having stepped off of the touring pedal the last few years I don’t get to Toronto as much as I’d like to and it was good catching up with folks.

Once into the stands the game started fairly late, 30 minutes by my account (I sent a tweet to the Rush on that).  Generally the crowd was boisterous but I saw more than a few people looking at their watches.  Nonetheless, this isn’t an issue as opening day can result in delays.  The sheer volume of people that entered after I did (and I was fairly close to game time) must have been massive as it went from ~500 folks to over 2000 in that short period.  Not an issue aside from the crowd not kept up to date.  Eventually Mark Lloyd appeared to give the go ahead and the opening ceremonies started with the team intros and national anthems.  I certainly hope the singer that sang returns as she did a great job and the crowd appreciated it.

Speaking of Mark Lloyd, he had a beast of a game and demonstrated why he’s one of the best players in the world.  I am very happy that not only did he hear me heckle (just once) but that he did acknowledge that he heard it to some degree.  I had spoken to him a few weeks ago at the Rush Press Conference and he’d indicated that he wasn’t going to be at the game as Team Canada tryouts were happening this past weekend (congrats to Mark for making the team).  As a player, fan, and a fan/player I was impressed that he was at the game.  Watching him score the first point and bring the crowd to their feet I imagined that must have been one of the best moments in his life; Mark, I hope it was.

After the first few points it was obvious to many that it would be a lopsided game.  In general the talent on The Rush draws from a pool where there isn’t competition from others and there’s also great talent in the region.  Once Rush had a large lead the crowd started to drift and while there were some exciting plays it was disappointing.  There is no doubt that Toronto is the best team in the AUDL (early prediction) and that there is likely to be little resistance in their march towards the championship.  That makes for a boring season and that’s where my concern lies.  I spoke with a number of young players in the row behind me and they all commented on the sloppy play.  They questioned whether the hucks were being thrown simply to create excitement.  As an Ultimate player I found the early game to be played well while the later stages were sloppy.  As a fan I was confused by the lack of communication surrounding what the referees were calling.  As a player/fan I understand and am being patient.  I am being patient because I know that first outings are always tough.  That the product being presented shall be refined.  That everything I’ve said above and more was noted by the Rush management and they’ll be working on it.

There is no doubt that the product shall improve where the staff can make changes.  The league shall also improve as the teams understands the atmosphere and fields they’ll be playing on (for instance, the Varsity field is very slippery, turf shoes?).  However, will the other teams provide enough competition?  Nothing but the best is expected from players each game and there will continue to be lopsided victories.  That is perhaps the most pressing issue in my mind and the minds of many.  The three perspectives I note above are the three audiences that Toronto needs in order to survive.  The Ultimate player itches for excitement but a technically good game.  The fan looks for excitement and heroics.  I am looking for both.

The team also needs to survive because it’s good for Ultimate in Toronto.  TUC was represented at the kick off conference and Jason (TUC GM) stated that anything that helps promote Ultimate helps them.  The best way to grow the sport is through visibility and it must be through large events like we saw on Saturday with large crowds that draw more to the sport.  By having regular high level games that kids can attend you encourage them to play throughout the week as they want to soar, layout, and huck.  We should be confined to parks and fields on weekends where we are watched in passing but rather in the downtown core of one of the largest cities.  The Rush is an important part of the fabric of the community even just one game in and their importance cannot and should not be underestimated.

So despite all of the flaws that I have noted and all of the ones that I missed I shall return to watch more games.  Partially because I love the game and supporting it, partially because I have always looked to help fund (with what I can) players and friends, partially because I want to see my friends play, but mostly because if I don’t then I am admitting that Ultimate isn’t worth watching.  If I’m not there in the seats watching, cheering, heckling, and applauding then how can I expect that of anybody else?  Without us being filling the stands it’s just another game of Ultimate being played on a field with strangers glancing over in passing.

So despite the two hour drive (each way), rain or shine, I’ll do my best to be there.  Except Gender Blender weekend; you folks pooched the schedule there.

It’s tryout season, right?

In the Northern Hemisphere it’s tryout season!  (I’m pretty sure you folks in the deep south are about to start your Fall and Winter training, why not come visit us up here and play a few tournaments?)

I’m often asked questions about tryouts and how one should prepare for a tryout or tryouts.  It’s important to understand how tryouts are run and what you can do to improve your chances.

Firstly, most of the team has been decided upon before the first tryout.  There are a small number of spots open for the team and those spots are what you’re fighting for.  How few?  If you really think about it then for an Open or Women’s team it may be four spots and for a Mixed team it’ll be two spots per gender.  You’re also fighting for a spot on the team and not the starting lines on O or D.  Should you make the team you’ll get to play in the less important games and you’ll still need to earn your spot on the starting lines.  However, that’s another conversation and we’re here to talk about how to get on the team in the first place.

As I said in my previous post: “You are always being watched.”  That means how you play, and more importantly practice, all year around reflects on you.  If you are bad at making a particular throw then learn how to throw it when you’re warming up or when you’re out throwing with friends.  You need to do that throw when you’re doing drills that are designed to teach that throw.  The repetitive practice in a small time frame is very important.  What you should not do is try to learn it during a practice scrimmage, game, or even a league game.  Why?  First, you’re not practicing the throw you’re learning it.  During scrimmages, games, or league games you’re supposed to be practicing decision making and teamwork rather than throwing.  If you cannot make a throw during a game and you do it anyways then what does it say about you?  At what point can others trust that you’ll make good decisions?  For goodness sakes, learn your throws before trying to practice them in a game of any kind.  One caveat is when it’s pickup or a fun game.  If you’re playing a low level game then you must try to take the edge off of everything you do.  You should fool around but your responsibility, as a touring player and ambassador of the sport, is to provide opportunities for others.  So in a fun game you will actually be the most consistent player and you should be passing to others so they can pass the most.  But beware, the line between fun and competitive is crossed earlier and earlier as the numbers in our sport grow.

Thirdly, attend as many tryouts as you can.  That means go to all of the tryouts that you can even if you’re not trying out for the team.  In my part of the World we have several high level Women’s, Mixed, Open, and Masters teams.  I always suggest going to all of the tryouts for the experience and also for the evaluation.  By knowing where you stack up you can now work on defined targets.  You also receive feedback indicating what you are doing well and what you’re not doing well.  You also receive yearly measurement sticks of how you compare to the field and whether your hard work in the last year has paid off.  Do not underestimate the experience of tryouts.

Fourthly, ask for help.  Engage team leaders and coaches.  Get better by throwing with them and cutting against them.  Watch how the best players get open and emulate that.  Recognize that your body type gives you advantages regardless of your body type.  There are successful people at the highest levels of the sport with all sorts of body types.  The only thing holding you back is your mental game.  Your mental game is what tells you to keep training after the season ends rather than taking it easy.  Your mental game is what tells you not to make a throw.  Your mental game is what gets you up early on weekends to go out and throw for a full day.  Watch the best players, they are always working hard year around.  They have a game plan year around and in many cases they have game plans going out for four year cycles.

The reason you’re not on a particular team is because of your mental game and that you’re not in a competitive mode all year around.  It can be an imposing expectation to always be in a competitive frame of mind year around but that’s the new standard.  If you’re not preparing year around then somebody else is and they’ll take your spot on the team.

I know all of the above sounds rather cynical and many would say that’s not for them.  I agree with that.  I’m a transient player and my concentration is in other places these days.  However, there are many of you that want to play high level and there are realities that you need to live with.

Sorry to tell you this…

But, if you’re intending to tryout for a team this spring:  you’ve been trying out since you started playing Ultimate.  I find it difficult to understand the decisions that players make in league play or during the regular season (I sometimes find my decisions difficult to understand as well).  If you play with me then perhaps you now understand why I tend to question my decisions.  Or if you encounter a conversation between myself and Geoff or Rahil or Greg Lang (happy birthday) or Elliot or Bryan or Alex (congrats on putting the ring on the correct finger) or really anybody that plays high level Ultimate you’ll understand why we constantly discuss game situations.  You’ll also understand why I’m so open for criticism and why after a bad game you must play five good games.  Why?  Our seasons are too short to tolerate bad decisions (in competitive markets) and therefor a tryout is not really a time where everybody has an equal chance.

Regardless of what you hear, tryouts are not equal opportunity for selection but rather equal opportunity to demonstrate skills to the selection committee.  Rare is it that the selection committee does not know who you are, how you’ve played, how you’ve developed, or has not coached you.  This is terribly important for you to understand and recognize but also implement.  That means if you have a bad league game you must have a string of good games.  If you constantly make a throw just because a player is there but you cannot execute that throw then you are adversely affecting your resume.

So what’s my advice?  Stop making bad decisions.  Really, just very simply, stop making bad decisions.  Get better at throwing and for goodness sake:  Learn how to dump or swing early in the stall count.  You are not at a league game, you are not at just another skills clinic where it’s ok to throw things away, you are constantly in tryouts.  Constantly.

I offer this small bit of advice not to stop you from playing league (you won’t get any better if you stop) or going to skill clinics or to tournaments.  I offer it so you stop being frustrated when you get cut from teams.  I have gone through the same process, been cut from teams, because I did not understand that you’re always being tested.  We are no longer playing a sport where there are limited opportunities or players.  There are hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of players competing against you for a limited number of spots and it’s only going to get tougher.  The above is what competitive elite players already know and that’s why even in a tournament that isn’t worth anything they’ll go hard and try to play their best.

So before you get any ideas:  dump or swing; your competitive season is riding on it.

Canada Day 2012

Like those around the country (and beyond) I visited my parents and sister today for a BBQ in the evening before fireworks.  My sister is a few years younger and not quite as involved in sports as I am (she is a bit of a brainiac though, just a bit).  A few years ago she started to take an interest in Ultimate but it never went beyond wanting to throw in the park.  Unfortunately she moved away and I was unable to teach her to throw.  Today I took the opportunity to get her to throw.  It was the first time that we’d thrown a disc together and my focus was to impart as much knowledge as possible.  We progressed quite quickly and before long she was asking me to throw it so she could jump for it.  We went through the usual coaching of how to catch it in the air (don’t just throw your hands at the disc!) as well as tracking and before long my looping 15 yard throws were easy for her to track.  It was interesting how quickly she picked things up.  I’ve played with league players for years that still struggle with basic concepts and I wonder if it’s because of ingrained habits or whether somebody just didn’t tell them what few things to change at the beginning.

Nevertheless a few minutes later my wife (yes, I’m married now, ruined my life, etc. etc.) joined us to also throw the disc.  My wifey isn’t an Ultimate player but she knows how to throw and catch basic 10-20 yard backhands.  She learned her throws under pressure at a small train station in Italy after we were kicked off the train for not having tickets (minor oversight).  Regardless, since she’s had more throwing time her spin and release were much better than my sister’s.  After 15 minutes of throwing amongst ourselves they headed indoors to have some tea but I still wanted to throw.  Fortunately, my mom stepped in.

Like the other ladies mentioned in this post, my mom has never played Ultimate, she’s not athletic nor does she participate in sports.  However, as we started throwing it became very obvious why I was able to learn how to throw so easily.  When I started playing quite a while back my backhand was pretty good right from the get go (my flick, still isn’t great).  It turns out that when I was a kid my mom and I used to throw a frisbee from time to time.  My original coach was my mom.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTubGL7jozY

As the night ended and I was walking home I came to a realization that I wish to share.

It is not enough to have great coaches to develop great players and teams.  In order for any country, province, or region to have a great team we must start with the parents.  Parents must teach their kids how to throw and develop basic skills.  We see this constantly in other sports and we too must teach our children.  This isn’t the end of the realization though.  In particular we must concentrate on Women’s Ultimate.  Women are still the primary caregivers for children in their formative years.  Women also tend to build skills constructively rather than for purely competitive advantages.  With this in mind, I believe, that putting resources into Women’s Ultimate will generate a larger set of talented youth that can enter regional programs.  Simply concentrating on Open (as exciting as it may be) does nothing other than make good TV.  Those countries that invest in Women’s Ultimate now shall reap the rewards for the coming decades with improved performance across all divisions.

That is the realization I have come to:  Women’s Ultimate is more valuable than we give it credit for (I’ll go into this in another post) and develops Ultimate in general far better than any other investment we can make into Ultimate at this time.